What hiring managers seek and how to make the most of your internship
One of the best ways to find out what types of careers and working environments are a good fit is by doing an internship while still in school. Not only is interning a great way to determine which occupations and industries you'll enjoy, but it can also jump-start your career. Think of internships as risk-free trials for your professional life.
At Leidos, we recognize the power of internships, which is why every year we welcome about 425 interns and hire roughly 900 recent college graduates.
In 2018, more than two-thirds of our interns received job offers to work at Leidos after graduation. While we're proud of that number, we don't plan on stopping there. In fact, Leidos Chairman and CEO Roger Krone has charged us with aiming to offer 80 percent of Leidos interns their first job after college.
So, how do you land a Leidos internship and then make the most of it once you get there?
We spoke with Dale Rimmey, director of college talent acquisition, as well as two internship hiring managers, Dawn Martinez, senior director of TS software engineering, and Dave Szczesniak, program manager in our Intel Group.
They shared their thoughts on how college students can get hired for internships, perform well on the job, and make the most of their internship experience. Having recruited, managed, and/or hired interns, each has a wealth of advice to share with anyone considering an internship.
What do managers look for while hiring interns?
"About 75 percent of our internships relate to science, engineering and technology, but candidates with great communication and presentation skills really stand out, no matter what skill sets are sought after," says Rimmey.
Below are additional skills that all three of our internship hiring managers look for — take note that many of them are "soft skills" unrelated to your technical know-how.
- Genuine curiosity
- Enthusiastic willingness to learn
- Demonstrated teamwork
- Leadership experience
- Strong initiative
- Track record of adaptability
- Research ability
- Relevant technical skills and coursework
"I am not as concerned with what languages a student knows or what frameworks or applications they've used," says Szczesniak. "I need to know whether you can understand a problem and then use a structured approach to solve it."
Psst! Here's a résumé checklist
Demonstrate relevant experience and soft skills by making sure your résumé includes not only your coursework and related positions but also your participation in any extracurricular activities, such as:
- Design or competition teams (e.g. designing solar cars)
- Coding teams
- Volunteering and other community service
In what ways can interns shine on the job?
Once you accept an internship, you may wonder how to excel and even earn that job offer or invitation to return for another internship. Here are a few ways you can do just that while interning:
- Readily adapt to changing environments
- Willingly increase your technical knowledge
- Show strong communication skills
- Demonstrate a desire to learn by asking questions and trying new things
- Actively network with employees and fellow interns
"We love making offers to interns who contribute to our positive culture," says Rimmey. "These are the types of people who stand out and whom we want to hire post-internship."
How can interns get the most out of their internships?
"Take advantage of any and all opportunities to learn," Szczesniak says, an advice echoed by Martinez. During a Leidos internship, you are given the chance to:
- Solve challenges posed by our customers
- Socialize with other young professionals, growing your professional network
- Further understand the industry and your function in it
- Practice and apply what you've learned in the classroom in the real world
- Expand your skills and knowledge
So, how can you accomplish all of that? Network, communicate and get involved. And ask questions like:
- How does this program fit into the bigger picture?
- What impact will our work have?
- How will this be used?
- Who is the customer?
"Try to understand the overall enterprise," says Rimmey. Understanding the answers to these types of questions better prepares you to make a real impact once you enter the workforce.
Networking opportunities during a Leidos internship will include:
- Brown bag luncheons with Leidos executives
- Events planned by our Young Professionals Employee Resource Group (e.g., NASA and Smithsonian tours, Blue Ridge hikes, bowling, and more)
- Community service opportunities
Martinez also suggests regularly communicating with your manager to get constructive feedback and even additional tasks or projects.
"You'll see that what we strive to offer in a Leidos internship — and a college entry-level position — is a continuation of the best of life on campus," explains Rimmey. "That's why we want well-rounded people who are involved in their current communities. This shows use that they'll fit in well with the Leidos culture and our teams."